for the 80 million displaced
The rumble that shook the house
could have been a truck but this home
is set back 800 feet from the road.
No trucks or train nearby. A tornado
sounds like a train, but no wind,
no green sky. The small kitchen
chandelier swung and the birdbath
rocked itself empty of water.
I put down knife and the homemade
roll I was slicing for a sandwich, ran
down the steps to the back yard
and drain field, open space away
from the canopy of trees, far from
the chimney that might crumble. Many
minutes while my heart pounded, rumbled.
A tremor in my hands, across the land.
Back inside, photos and paintings
had crashed from the hallway walls.
Broken glass across my parents’ faces.
Cookie sheets and baking pans slid
from the open pantry onto the floor.
In the breakfront, three broken Royal
Dalton plates that were my mother’s.
Small losses compared to homes wrecked.
I still shook after everything stopped
shaking. Aftershocks for more
than two years. This is how it is—
how the unexpected lands in your life
without asking for it, causing it. Your
plans for a comfortable life smashed.
No consequence of a bad decision
or impulsive behavior. No drugs
or drink involved. Weather has its
way. A president refuses the peaceful
transfer of power. Another starts a war.
People are fleeing the only home they’ve
known. Events roll over, shake the land,
rattle what you thought was firm and solid,
including the land under your feet. Your
nearest neighbor is dead in the street.
Photos of people that could be family
without labels or dates. Phone numbers
in my father’s wallet from thirty years ago.
When my father killed himself, he didn’t
take my mother with him. He wanted
to get away from her, from his daughters,
grandsons, had no one he could talk to.
He didn’t leave a note, didn’t have his say,
didn’t tell my sister where he’d hidden
his gold watch and diamond rings. Did he?
She found them. My mother never kept
a diary. My grandmothers couldn’t read
more than street signs, letters for subway
lines in New York. They never wrote letters,
didn’t answer questions never asked.
They took all the family secrets with them.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her work has appeared in Potomac Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The MacGuffin, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.